Spooks: can we trust Harry Pearce?

He's our favourite man at MI5, but has he been fooling us all along?

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Anyone who doesn’t want Spooks to end must be feeling devastated now. I know I am. Last night’s opening episode was the best yet. 

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Harry Pearce is finally centre stage, having edged himself into the limelight during the course of the last series, when there was a suspicion that he might have been a double agent.

I think we’ve all been waiting for Harry to come to the fore. Played by Peter Firth, without doubt one of the finest actors in the series, Harry is arguably its most compelling character.

There from the start, tucked behind his desk most of the time, Harry has slowly evolved from bureaucratic defender of the realm into a man of profound personal convictions. We have looked into his soul and seen the intensity of his feelings, not just through his love for Ruth, but in his loyalty to those who serve him.

Sum Harry up and he is the very essence of still waters running deep. We’ve come to admire him, to sympathise with his struggles, to want it all to work out for him.

But do we trust Harry?

The Home Secretary got him off the hook last night, but it turned out to be a temporary reprieve as Harry’s past is creeping up on him once again, with old friends and enemies from the days of the Cold War back on the scene.

Among the ghosts are a beautiful Russian ex-lover and her son, who despises him.

The words “loyalty”, “friend” and “betrayal” were heard again and again, reminding us that Harry has spent his life putting country before all personal ties. It’s a tough call and the years have taken their toll.

I wonder how many of us viewers who stuck by Harry through the difficult times over the Lucas North affair couldn’t help thinking, “Suppose he is guilty? Suppose Harry’s fooled us all?”

By looking back to Harry’s Iron Curtain intrigues, the pace of Spooks slowed slightly but effectively. The writers briefly crossed over into technology-free Le Carré territory with coded messages left in the spines of library books and typewritten documents hidden in secret compartments.

It was the old world casting a shadow over the new. And the new world had to step up a gear to meet it.

This is where the gadgets and the gorgeous agents came in. The episode may have had its sepia-tinted moments but it was the computer geeks who gathered the data to take us to its action-packed ending.

At a glamorous reception, thick with spies from East and West, all under cover and trying to work out who the would-be assassin was, there was tension in every direction. Harry’s eyes meeting those of his former lover, Ruth suddenly aware that there was someone in his life before her, and all the while beautiful young agents whispering urgent instructions into hidden mics.

It was almost a relief when the guns went off.

But when all was said and done, the mystery had deepened and the final moments put Harry back in the frame, compromised by his past and turning to Ruth for help.

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It looks like it’s going to be Harry’s series and he’ll be taking us out in style. In the meantime, we’ll be puzzling over the unanswered questions and longing for the next episode.